In a bid to become China's electric vehicle capital, Shenzhen has set a goal to replace more than 50 per cent of its combustion engine buses with electric or hybrid ones by 2015, a move that would reduce air pollution, especially of dangerous fine respirable particles.
Shenzhen mayor Xu Qin said during the current National People's Congress in Beijing that within three years the city would ban from the road all vehicles that failed to meet the country's advanced emission standards.
The 'green' credentials of electric cars is controversial. Some researchers say that only when renewable sources - such as solar, wind or hydropower - are used in making the car and generating the electricity to run it will emissions truly fall to zero. Nevertheless, Xu said adopting electric would greatly reduce air pollution in Shenzhen, which ranks second to Beijing as having the most vehicles on the mainland.
'Electric cars consume electricity rather than petrol, so at least there'll be zero emission of PM2.5 from the public transport system,' he was quoted as saying by yesterday's Nanfang Daily. PM2.5 refers to respirable suspended particulates of 2.5 microns or less, which include cancer-causing particles.
Xu said 3,000 electric or hybrid vehicles were put into use in Shenzhen last year, and a further 2,000 were planned for this year.
Shenzhen's transport commission said earlier that the city planned to put on the road 5,000 hybrid and 1,000 electric buses, and 3,000 electric taxis, by the end of 2015.
This could cut 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, The Economic Observer reported.
According to Shenzhen's environmental protection bureau, the city's roughly 2.3 million vehicles emitted nearly 50 per cent of total PM2.5 and nitrogen oxides. Official figures suggest that 23 per cent of the city's emissions come from its 13,000 buses and 14,000 taxis.
Professor Eric Cheng, a specialist in electric vehicles at Polytechnic University, said Hong Kong, which offers fewer government subsidies to promote use of electric vehicles, was unlikely to follow Shenzhen's example. 'Everybody wants such a move,' he said. 'But it's nearly impossible for Hong Kong's privately owned bus operators to replace half of their vehicles with electric or hybrid ones, as the cost is too high. Without abundant government subsidies, it could take a decade for Hong Kong's bus companies to replace half of the buses with electric or hybrid ones.'
Although coal accounts for more than 80 per cent of the fuel mix in China's power plants, Cheng said: 'Filters in power plants are much more advanced than those on buses or taxis, and the percentage of electricity from coal will surely decrease if we have an eye on the future.'
In Shenzhen, every electric bus put on the road has received a one million yuan (HK$1.22 million) subsidy since 2010, half from the central government and half from Shenzhen's. Subsidies for hybrid buses have increased from 300,000 to 600,000 yuan last year.
The number of electric buses, costing 4 billion yuan, ordered by the Shenzhen government from local carmaker BYD, its president says